Is the Death Penalty Good for Women?

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Buffalo Criminal Law Review


rape, murder, death penalty, capital punishment


As I write this essay in the summer of 2000, the death penalty is beginning to undergo a profound reexamination in this country. In particular, Americans are troubled by growing evidence that innocent individuals have been convicted and sentenced to death. The issue of innocence, in conjunction with concerns about high reversal rates, prosecutorial misconduct, and inadequate provision of defense counsel, has caused one governor, a multitude of city councils, and legal organizations across the country to call for a moratorium on the death penalty. In this essay, I suggest a different and particularly feminist reason for reexamining, and rejecting, the death penalty. The death penalty perverts society's response to the tragedy of a woman being raped and murdered by relying on a form of racism that is gendered in nature and by making the horrific nature of the crime of rape-murder a more important consideration in determining punishment than the individual characteristics of the person who committed it.


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